Even Stranger Times

Here we are at the other end of summer and on the verge of another national lockdown. The world is definitely not having a good 2020. I’m still working from home which makes me feel safe and secure. My husband works in a Covid secure environment so I don’t worry about that (too much) and I know I will be staying here at home for the foreseeable future. Luckily my company hasn’t tried to make us go back into the office and with the Government U-turn (what, another one!) it looks unlikely that will happen this year.

So what exciting things have I been doing over the summer, I hear you ask. Well, surprisingly enough, not a lot. Not in comparison to other years it’s been a very quiet summer. No gigs, no eating out, no visiting friends, no festivals, no holidays, no day trips. That’s a lot of no’s. I have been enjoying my garden (more on that later), lots of cooking and baking, more reading than usual, a little less crafting than usual due to all the gardening, less “work” work than usual too.

That’s a strange one because I thought working from home permanently would make it hard for me to stop at the end of the “working” day but being at home has made me more conscious of “me” time. I stop working when I’m supposed to and I don’t find myself sneaking back online to check data or reports every time I walk past my computer. Being at home has made me very aware that I need to have definition between my working life and the rest of my life and I like it.

I’ve had issues with the tendons in my left hand this summer, I was in excruciating pain for weeks before I decided to deal with the issue. I spoke to an amazing OHT that I have access to at work and she has been helping me sort out the issues. I woke up one day in a lot of pain and for a little while was convinced I was having a reoccurrence of the Carpal Tunnel Syndrome that plagued me 10 years ago. Thankfully it looks like this time it was caused by very uncomfortable sleeping patterns that stretched the tendons in my hand. With lots of daily exercises and the use of a night brace I’m nearly out the other side of this. I’m learning to take more breaks and stop when it hurts. Now that sounds obvious doesn’t it, but it’s not. I need to consciously tell myself to stop.

Sunflower from July
Glorious sunflower from July

So onto the gardening news. Despite the shit the world is going through this year I have had a good summer. A productive summer. A joyful summer. How? My garden. I have poured every ounce of time, creativity and hard work into that space outside my living room window and the rewards have been immense. We started back in April with a few out of date seeds packs and a lot of time on our hands. Now we have this amazing space that is starting, very slowly, to feed us. We’ve had strawberries, tomatoes, carrots, coriander, spinach, lettuce, rocket. All in tiny quantities and barely enough for a whole meal apart from the spinach which threatened to overwhelm us but we grew it ourselves. We watched it growing, we watered it, we weeded it, we nurtured it.

It has been a huge positive impact on both our lives and something we are both so grateful for. Not only have we had a few tasty morsels we have had an abundance of colour and fragrance. A beautiful place to sit and share with the hundreds of garden birds that visit us every day. Well maybe not hundreds, it just feels like that when they all descend on the feeders.

So obsessed have we become that we now have three raised vegetable beds. Our summer bed still has the remnants of beans and spinach in it. The other two new beds are for over wintering our strawberry runner plants and some tender stem broccoli and onions. Hopefully these will be ready by Christmas. Then we put a cage up to the stop the pigeons and I tied little bits of tin foil to the netting to scare them off. Not sure this works but I like the way it sounds in the wind.

So in order to keep track of our garden adventures I’m going to add a new page to this blog and document month by month what we’ve done this year and then each month update it with our progress. It will act both as an incentive for me to keep this blog updated (I came back in less than 6 months this time – an all time record!) and also as an online calendar/journal of our garden so we can look back on what we planted, what successes we had, what we want more of etc etc. Basically I’m going to blog about my utter joy at growing even the tiniest thing because at this point it’s worth sharing every little tiny bit of positivity we have with the world.

Strange times

We are living in very strange times. 2020 is not turning out how any of us thought it would. We are all, mostly, staying at home, working from home, existing from home. I am finding the adjustment to being in my home 24/7 very easy. I believe I am in a minority with this feeling. I have always been the kind of person that needs to gear herself up to go and socialise. Consequently I don’t have a huge circle of friends and I rarely go out just for the sake of it socially. I go out to hear live music, sometimes to eat, to go to work, to visit family, to exercise.

The current state of the world means I can’t do any of those things. But I’m adjusting. I watch live streams of music from my favourite bands from the comfort of my living room. And you know what – no-one is talking over the band! I watch cookery shows and cook from scratch – I’ve perfected tarka daal. I was able to work from home although I’m currently on furlough leave (that’s the hardest thing to adjust to). I text family and friends or hang out on video chats for my British Sign Language course. I do yoga in my room. I have overcome the limitations put upon me by this world event and my own health issues. I am adjusting.

What I am missing is photography. So I went out into the garden (the only place I’m allowed to go right now as I’m on this pesky vulnerable person list) and pushed myself out of my comfort zone using a 50mm fixed lens. I don’t like it. I never have. I find it restricting and I don’t fully understand how it reacts to light and stuff so I rarely use it. I had a little bit of success with it today, in full manual mode and I do like how light and easy it is to hold. I just get frustrated having to keep moving around with it. I’m too reliant on my zoom lens’ and that’s something I need to work on.

My Instagram account has become limited to my garden. This isn’t a bad thing but it means there will be a very detailed account of how my garden grew this year. Normally I take pictures on my morning commute to Liverpool City Centre. My commute is now about 30 feet to the end of my garden so I’m expecting to have to get very creative with those pictures.

I planted some out of date seed packets – sunflowers, chillis, sweet peas. I left them pinned to my noticeboard and they stayed there. I never have enough time, the weather is never right, I forgot to buy compost. A million reasons to not plant them. This time out we’ve been given means I have no excuses. So I planted them all. Wow, sunflowers grow fast!!

Hopefully more time to write will see me update my blog more than once every 3 years. Hopefully. Depends on that To Be Read pile of books I can see out of the corner of my eye.

Scrapping Again….

Not sure why but I always seem to have a rush of creativity at this time of year. Maybe as the nights get lighter and the days get longer I want to do more than just curl up and watch tv.

So I’ve been scrapbooking like a demon for the last few weeks. It’s been nice going through my stash and finding things I’d forgotten I had.

I’ve also indulged in a few new bits – mostly from Shimelle’s American Craft ranges. I also found a box full of Basic Grey – I must have sorted them all into one pile last year when I had my big craft room make over.

Lots of music layouts have emerged over the last few months too…. music and photography and scrapbooking – my holy trinity!

So on to the layouts…

Let’s start with the music ones. I’ve been to some great gigs this year. I think I’ve a couple of layouts from gigs I went to last year too that I just got round to scrapping.

The first two layouts are from a gig at the Cavern in Liverpool a few weeks ago – it was part of the Under The Apple Tree tour put together by Radio Two’s Bob Harris. Robert Vincent is a major talent I’m proud to call a friend and it’s so gratifying to see him getting the recognition he so richly deserves and it was a thrill to see him again at the Cavern with his own band and also supporting Nashville legend Kimmie Rhodes.

First up on the bill with Rob was our very own songbird Eleanor Nelly. She is such a wonderful singer and I love taking pictures of her. She’s off to Nashville this weekend – I know she’s going to be a major star in the not too distant future.

Music Layouts - 15

Next up was Catherine McGrath, an Irish singer who is certainly going to be a force to be reckoned with. Her easy, country inspired songs are infectious and have you tapping your feet every time you hear them. My personal favourite is Hell Would Have To Freeze Over. How I wish I’d had this song in my teenage break up arsenal 😉

Music Layouts - 14

This layout features photos from last summer, before Daniel and members of the band headed off on an adventure around the Far East. He’s back in the UK now and I can’t wait to hear some new material from him. I think the next time we see him will almost be a year to the day since these photos were taken at one of my favourite venues – Thornton Hough.

Music Layouts - 13

What can I say about Frank? His music has become the soundtrack to part two of my life. I rebooted my entire existence in 2012 and discovered his music that same year. We saw him at the Palm House in Liverpool’s Sefton Park last year. It was a thrill to see him at such a small venue – he was awesome and despite standing at the back and not seeing much it was one of the best gigs of last year. Paul Dunbar supported Frank and as he’s one of the rising stars in Liverpool it was a perfect night.

Music Layouts - 12

Another layout of Eleanor. These photos were taken the same night as the Rosenblume photos above. Eleanor was the support act and she blew the roof off the place – first time I’ve seen a support act do an encore.

Music Layouts - 11

Mr Mike Peters. The title of the layout says it all really. Another amazing Gathering this year – it’s an annual pilgrimage we make to Llandudno, made even better this year by the inclusion of Ian McNabb as the support act on the Saturday night. I’ve cited that combination as my “dream” line up for many years and this year I finally got to see it. Perfection.

Hero - MP - 1

So onto the non music layouts.

Over Easter we went to Gauntlet Bird of Prey centre in Cheshire. We had a brilliant afternoon, despite the rain. Pete had an up close and personal encounter with a Harris Hawk that seems to have taken exception to his Pink Floyd t-shirt LOL. The flying display was stunning – so many birds circling and just enjoying themselves. The sight of a group of red kites playing in the thermals is one of life’s great joys.

Final layout is from a trip to Martin Mere a few weeks ago – we were lucky to go on a beautiful bright day as the daffodils were in full bloom. There have been lots of changes over the winter – MM is one of our favourite places, even just for an hour it’s always worth the trip.

Bear Hunt - 1

That’s enough for now. More to come in the following weeks I think.

Know your audience

Day Four is about understanding your audience and writing a post specifically aimed at your target audience. Well first off, I never actually thought about having an “audience”. I write and ramble away here and I’m sure a couple of my friends look in from time to time but generally the stats would suggest I’m not exactly going to fill Wembley stadium with my followers.

So to have to write something that is deliberately designed to engage with this until now imaginary audience is a little daunting.

Who do I want my words to be read by? I guess if you look at the blog overall I talk about music and photography a great deal. They are the two overriding passions in my life and I’m nearly always engaged in one or both of those things. Unless I’m in work and even then I get to work with other people’s photos so it’s still there!

So I guess a pre-requisite for being a member of my audience is you must love music and photography.

Also this audience thing isn’t a one way street – show me your photographs for me to fall in love with and need to know how/why/where. If you’re in a band send me a song to sing along to and if you live in Liverpool and you’re a musician ask me to come and take your photograph at a gig. In return I will share my photographs with you, I will sing along to your songs and tell my friends how wonderful you are. That’s how the audience thing works here! Two way street.

So now we’re getting a little bit closer to understanding who you, my audience, are.

I’m obviously also a writer. I’ve always been a writer but sometimes it was just in my head, that book I was always going to write stayed firmly in my head for many years. This time last year it emerged into a 26,000 word draft as part of NaNoWriMo but has subsequently retreated and just teases me from time to time with a fleeting idea. It is something I am desperate to finish so I can get someone to read it and tell me either it’s a pile of tosh or it’s going to make the bestsellers list with a little work.

So maybe my audience is also that – part frustrated writer. Struggling to make their voice heard, struggling to find the discipline. Give me a little digital High Five if you’re struggling too. Hopefully you understand and are nodding along as you’re reading this paragraph. And I appreciate the irony that while I’m taking the time to write about not being able to write my novel, I could be writing my novel.

I consider myself to be a generally creative person – sewing, crochet, scrapbooking, writing, photography. Creativity comes in many forms and is something I’m so grateful I have the freedom, time and money to explore. Sure I’d like more time and money to be creative, who wouldn’t? But I’m also blessed above all to have the freedom – my life is not a constant struggle for food, shelter, warmth or any of the other things that stifle creativity. So in my little way sharing the fruits of this freedom is my way of saying thank you to the universe for putting me in the position to be able to.

Time to share a little bit of myself with you by pointing you in the direction of my Pinterest page.

I’m not prolific here – I forget about Pinterest on a regular basis then someone shares one of my pins and I go back and play with it for a while. So feel free to share and give me a virtual dig in the ribs to add some new content. I think my boards are pretty much a reflection of everything I’ve been talking about here. Oh and this counts as a new piece of content for my blog as I’ve never shared Pinterest here before.

Instagram is another of those sharing experience type apps I forget to use. It’s invariably coffee or food so if you’re not into either of those I’d give my Instagram account a miss! If you love your coffee come and follow me and we can share coffee moments.

So I think that’s it – I think I’ve worked out who you are, dear reader. You’re creative, you love music and photography and you want to share those blessings with the world. Hey, you’re just like me so we’re going to get along just fine.

Tags and Blogs

Just catching up on some of the things I’ve been doing this week following along with Blogging101. So we had to add new tags to our Reader and follow some new blogs.  So here’s what I added:

  • Bruce Springsteen – I’m a newcomer very late in life to the wonder of this man’s music. I am currently, under the tutelage of a very good friend and long time Springsteen admirer, working my way through the back catalogue. I’m starting with the acoustic stuff as that fits in with my general taste in music – Devils and Dust is a revelation. It’s truly sublime and I urge you to try it out if you’re not already acquainted with The Boss.
  • Crochet – I struggle with my love of crochet – I find it equally frustrating and satisfying depending on how well a project is going.
  • Liverpool. My home town. Where I live. This tag however seems to lean very heavily towards non English blogs about my football team. Not what I was looking for so I may have to refine this tag.
  • Photography. This tag will be a slippery slope into many, many hours looking at other people’s photos.
  • Running. I have a love hate relationship with running. When I’m doing it I love it – I love the sense of freedom, of control over my body. When I’m lying in bed at 5:30am contemplating going to the gym I hate it. Maybe this tag will help me reduce the hate.

So these are the new tags I’m going to be keeping an eye on and I think they sum up my life pretty well right now.

So on to the new blogs I’m following.

  1. Edge of Humanity – I love this already – photo journalism at its best I think. Feels like I’m going to spend a lot of time here.
  2. Nerdy Book Club – Haven’t really visited this site yet but I know I’m going to love it. I’m a nerd. I’m writing a book. I read books. What’s not to love.
  3. Wandering Cows – I was attracted to this site because of the most recent post. Another Place is one of my favourite places. I worked on the local newspaper (before it closed) for this area and one of my great pleasures was curating the Flickr group which was always full of images from Crosby Beach.
  4. Speaking as a child of the nineties – this is a blog by a fellow Blogging101 member and I liked the layout and the writing style – I hope this is the start of a beautiful reader/blogger relationship!
  5. Digiphile – in a former life I was a web designer/editor and I’m currently a proof reader/content editor (this isn’t my job title but Community Content Curator tells you nothing about what I do!) so I like to keep up with what’s happening in the digital world.

Taglines and Titles

Today’s task was to create a tagline for my blog but I already have one – Messing About With WordPress. I don’t really want to change it because it sums up what I use my blog for. I never really set out to do anything other than learn how to use WordPress but somewhere along the way I stopped playing with WordPress on a regular basis.

Originally I thought about being a self employed web designer. I worked for one of the big four banks in the UK in IT and when i was made redundant that’s what I planned to do so I thought being a whizz with WordPress would be a help. I spent a few months trying to get some customers, failed, panicked and took a full time job.

I dabbled in WordPress on and off, the odd post, some photos but then a few days ago I decided to take a Blogging course so I’m back – Messing About With WordPress.

Who I am and why I’m here

My name is Lis and I live here in Liverpool in the North West of England. Apologies to anyone who’s been here before for this post but I’ve started a blogging course and the task for Day One (today) is to introduce myself and say why I’m taking the course.

Clearly I have a problem writing with any regularity both here and in my endeavour to finish the first draft of my first novel so that’s essentially why I’m here. To develop a daily habit of writing, even if it’s only a short post every day. I need to get back into that habit.

I managed it this time last year and wrote around 25,000 words in November as part of NaNoWriMo but sadly have only written about 2,000 more words in the first draft since then. NaNoWriMo likes you to start with a new draft each November so I’m not participating this year as I really want to finish what I already started (it’s a fantasy YA novel – so far!).

I also love writing but very often just write for the sake of it and then delete it. I plan to delete as little as possible from my scribblings in the next month – again apologies in advance for the nonsense that may emerge – but that’s half the fun, isn’t it.

So welcome to Anfield Girl – please have a look around the rest of the site (lots of links to my other passion – my photography) and drop me a line if you want to say hi!